Cotton barely existed as a commercial crop in 1790. By 1860, however, cotton had exploded across the South and clearly dominated the Southern agricultural economy. As more and more cotton was planted, more and more labor was needed, so Southern planters transported hundreds of thousands of African-American slaves westward into the new cotton lands of the lower Mississippi valley and Gulf Coast states, where the planters used their social, political, and economic power to keep slavery legal. The result established a sharp demarcation between the Southern states, where slave labor helped produce large amounts of economically valuable cotton, and the rest of the nation, where the economy was more diversified and slave labor had been outlawed.
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